cover image Painted Ladies

Painted Ladies

Robert B. Parker, Putnam, $26.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-399-15685-4

At the start of the lackluster 38th Spenser novel from late MWA Grand Master Parker, the iconic Boston PI agrees to protect art historian Ashton Prince during the exchange for cash of a rare painting held for ransom, 17th-century Dutch artist Franz Hermenszoon’s Lady with a Finch. When a bomb kills Prince during the botched exchange, Spenser naturally plans to even the score. And naturally, Spenser’s probing—into the painting’s complex history, Prince’s twisted life, the museum that owned the painting—leads to violent reactions. Spenser’s habitual wisecracking often comes across as merely smart-alecky, but as always he backs the attitude with performance. While this crime thriller is short on the kind of grit and character that earned Parker (1932–2010) an Edgar Award and numerous Shamus nominations, fans should still relish this probably final opportunity to enjoy the inimitable Spenser, who made his debut in 1973’s The Godwulf Manuscript. (Oct.)